As COVID-19 continues to impact nearly every aspect of daily life, Feeding Tampa Bay and the University of South Florida have teamed up to help ease the burden on families unsure of where their next meal might come from.
The local nonprofit held one of its Mega-Pantry events at the Yuengling Center on USF’s Tampa campus. Hundreds of vehicles pulled through the parking lot to be loaded up with fresh produce, dairy, protein and shelf-stable items by USF volunteers and Feeding Tampa Bay staff.
“Food insecurity is a significant issue for many families in Hillsborough County, and the need has grown dramatically because of the coronavirus pandemic,” USF President Steven Currall said. “USF has a longstanding commitment to public service in our surrounding communities, and we appreciate the opportunity to partner with Feeding Tampa Bay to help our neighbors during this very challenging time.”
Feeding Tampa Bay leaders say the need across the region continues to climb. Before COVID-19, the organization reports it provided meals for roughly 650,000 people struggling with food insecurity. Today, that number is closer to 1.69 million. It’s a startling statistic, but a need they hope to meet through these Mega-Pantry events capable of serving more than 1,000 people at a time.
Since 2015, USF has partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay on a variety of research projects to raise awareness of the consequences of food insecurity on health and well-being, work productivity and academic success. The university’s new Center for the Advancement of Food Security and Healthy Communities continues to be an active partner with the area nonprofit. Led by Department of Anthropology Chair and Professor David Himmelgreen, the center works to raise awareness and conduct research around food insecurity and food sovereignty. Through these partnerships, the idea of hosting a Mega-Pantry on the USF Tampa campus came to fruition.
"As we seek locations where we can best serve the community, the University area is a perfect one for us,” Feeding Tampa Bay President and CEO Thomas Mantz said. “We're excited to see where this opportunity leads and thankful for the ongoing partnership with USF."
To learn more about Feeding Tampa Bay and their future food pantry events, visit their website.